Transit Police willing to discuss ID checks that could lead to deportation

Metro Vancouver Transit Police say they're open to changing how they deal with undocumented people who might be at risk of deportation.

“We’ve indicated that we would be more than willing to sit at the table and discuss this situation and listen to both sides of the issue,” said Anne Drennan, a spokesperson for the regional law-enforcement agency.

Drennan noted that Transit Police are aware that the City of Vancouver is working on a so-called “sanctuary city” policy. She said they will be happy to participate in related deliberations.

“We understand that a meeting or more than one meeting was held in Vancouver, which Vancouver police attended,” Drennan continued. “We’re more than willing to sit down and discuss this.”

Drennan spoke to the Straight shortly after the publication of a report by the Tyee that explores the risks undocumented immigrants face engaging in the mundane task of riding public transit.

In 2013, Transit Police reported 328 incidents to the Canada Border Services Agency—one nearly every day of the year, it’s reported there. Those calls resulted in 62 investigations.

At least one of those cases led to a death. In December 2013, Lucia Vega Jiménez committed suicide while in CBSA custody after Transit Police arrested her for a minor fare-evasion offence.

Drennan defended officers’ tactics. She emphasized that 328 referrals to CBSA is not a lot, considering that in 2013 authorities stopped 25,000 people for fare-evasion checks.

She also noted that CBSA is not a Transit Police officer’s first call for assistance.

“Typically, we can figure out who the person is on our own,” Drennan said. “And if all of that fails, then the next tool, I guess, is being able to call CBSA to see if they might have information regarding the person. It is the next database down the line.”

Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs argued it’s better to bring undocumented immigrants into the system in ways that don’t penalize them so severely.

“To go from ticket violation to turning over to the CBSA, that’s a big jump and something that causes a lot of concern,” he told the Straight. “I think it is disproportionate. There are a lot of reasons why people wind up here without documents, and it can be very understandable.”

Meggs suggested that revelations of the close relationship between Transit Police and CBSA underscore the need for a defined set of sanctuary policies that allow undocumented residents to access social services without fear of deportation.

However, Meggs noted that such a framework won’t come overnight.

“I don’t think that there will be an immediate deceleration or anything done before the [November] election,” he said. “But I personally feel it is an area that we should proceed in.”

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Jul 12, 2014 at 11:28am

If people are here without proper authorization, there is nothing wrong with deporting them. Whether the deportation process is started due to nonpayment of fare or due to murder or whatever, that is immaterial. "Disproportionate"? Meggs is perhaps getting senile. The deportation is not punishment for not paying the fare; it is not even punishment, it is simply returning an unauthorized human resource to its point of origin.


Jul 12, 2014 at 2:11pm

You would think that if someone was in Canada without status that he or she would take reasonable steps to avoid coming to the attention of the immigration authorities. For example, not breaching laws or bylaws.

If there is a problem with going back to the lawful country of nationality, the person has the option of requesting asylum in Canada. Of course, if they waited for weeks, months, or years before being caught without status, that does raise a question about the degree of fear they actually have about returning home.

Doesn't that make sense? Thumbs away!

Nicholas Ellan

Jul 12, 2014 at 3:23pm

The vast majority of us are not here without proper authorization. As the City of Vancouver has acknowledged, we live on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. CBSA has no right to deport anyone from here. All deportations must stop. No one is illegal.

White Laws

Jul 12, 2014 at 7:44pm

Why is it that white laws must apply? Is it because whites have the most powerful weapons? Perhaps anyone not of native descent (as in red man) should be deported. It would certainly relieve the population pressure on the land.

Tommy Khang

Jul 12, 2014 at 10:13pm

Hey guess what Nicholas, the City of Vancouver can say a lot of things, unfortunately the vast majority of its citizens could give a hoot. You really think that the 600,000 plus people care that they live on unceded territories? Regarding the issue at hand, I agree with RUK, and furthermore, why should any political party want to make non citizens feel safe, these non-citizens are exactly contributing to the municipal coffers now are they?

@Nicholas Ellan

Jul 13, 2014 at 12:58am

In what sort of hellish pre-modern nation do we live where people born here are considered second-class citizens? If these are Squamish/etc. lands, that is fine. That means we are full members of those nations if we were born within their limits. They cannot have it both ways. Modern nations are not allowed to deny citizenship to people born within them.

Anonymous Vancouver

Jul 13, 2014 at 11:16am

Excuse me Geoff Meggs...

But, I believe that I speak for a vast majority of Vancouver residents and taxpayers when I say that I would prefer that, if an illegal immigrant is found by ANY government official - including transit police, they should be referred to CBSA.

I'm quite sure that Canadian immigration law provides for accused illegal immigrants to have their claims heard to determine if they rightfully belong in this Country. I'm also pretty sure that Canada ranks among the highest of nations in terms of our treatment of illegal immigrants or asylum seekers.

I don't think that the tragic case of one accused illegal immigrant who committed suicide while in CBSA custody should be used to suggest that turning over an undocumented person to CBSA is "disproportionate". It is what we expect and pay for Canadian citizens and taxpayers.

I would also suggest that your role as a city councillor is to maintain our civic infrastructure, to adopt and apply municipal zoning and bylaws, and to spend our property tax dollars wisely. That's about it. Immigration law is a federal matter and is beyond your jurisdiction.


Jul 13, 2014 at 12:28pm

1 Undocumented People = Illegal Immigrants = usually work at minimum wage jobs or jobs that pay even less than minimum wage - any job they can get. Then they usually send some of their meager wages back to their families in their home country. Saving $8 - $10 dollars / day = $40 - $50 / week = $200 - $250 / month on Skytrain fares is a huge saving.

2 The best way to reduce Skytrain costs and increase ridership - Fire all the Translink Cops and reduce all Skytrain fees to $1.00 - for any trip to anywhere on Skytrain.

Translink and Metro Vancouver (the old GVRD since the name change) are much more in love with the idea of a POLICE STATE ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM than serving the folks who really need to use Public Transit.


Jul 13, 2014 at 2:12pm

This is interesting, does this mean that the transit police have another tool with regards to the numbers of possible illegal persons living in the lower mainland?

I would welcome full disclosure to these findings as they (violators, and illegal aliens) present only because we as Canadian Tax Payers continue to take it on the chin due to increasing higher costs of not only transit fares but also other services such as medical premiums that are constantly being abused by those who sneak under the radar and abuse the system (ID Fraud et al).


Jul 13, 2014 at 3:28pm

Some Translink Numbers

$50,000,000.00 on Staff with 5 Officers making more that the Prime Minister

$17,000,000.00 for Transit Police Officers with half the Transit Police making over $100,000.00 per year

Translink can KISS MY ASS

Where is the NDP - How about some bold clear statement that they will put an end to this BS